New legislation not the way to tackle problem of assault on workers

26/11/2010

The Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill would not provide any more safeguards to individuals against assault than those currently available through law, according to a Parliament committee report published today.

The Bill, introduced by Hugh Henry MSP, proposes the creation of a statutory offence of assault on a worker who deals directly with the public.

The majority of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee (EET) said the Bill’s proposals did not extend protection available under the common law offence of assault. They, therefore, recommended to the Parliament that the general principles of the Bill are not agreed to. The Bill will now be debated in the Chamber early next year.

While the committee agreed with the Bill that ensuring protection of workers providing a service to the public is essential, and that something should be done now to tackle the problem of assault on workers and deter violence, most members said this can be done without additional legislation.

Iain Smith MSP, Convener of the EET Committee, said:

“We share the Bill’s aim of promoting the protection of, and respect for, public-facing workers. We also agree that something has to be done now to bring about a change in culture and tackle unacceptable behaviour towards workers.

“However, the committee agreed that other action to address the issue of assault and abuse of workers should be taken now by the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and employers, including: tougher prosecution and sentencing guidelines; and effective campaigns to show that such behaviour is totally unacceptable, and to ensure that attacks on workers are reported and prosecuted.”

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • The Crown Office and employers to address wide-spread concern about how seriously prosecution services treat assaults on public-facing workers;
  • The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service must collect and publish statistics on aggravating circumstances for common law assault and breach of the peace prosecutions. This would allow the impact of the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 to be measured;
  • Introduction of sentencing and prosecution guidelines for assaults on public workers.

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